Doctor Barbara Blight was the most disreputable scientist since Mengele. Human experimentation, WMDs, even a few attempts at mangling the space-time continuum itself were not beyond her. She was 'holed up' in a luxury house-come-lab in Mauritius.
"Dearest Doctor," said an oily but simulated voice, "I have made contact."
Jumping up from her divan, the curvaceous scientist rearranged her hair to cover the mutilated side of her face. "Stupendous, MAL, sweetie," she cooed to the sinister face on the screen, which was attached to a massive bank of hard drives. Her artificial intelligence ally and darling was tied into the household, communications satellites and the internet, and had still been able to handle the minutiae of the plan Blight was shortly to enact.
The face on the screen vanished abruptly, and another, on a video feed, appeared. A hard, craggy, arrogant face that gazed imperiously at Blight.
"Zarm," Blight smirked, "you actually came back."
"You seem surprised," he said flatly.
"Well, for yet another time Captain Planet and the Planet-brats put you off the Earth. I thought you might have given up."
Blight had allied with Zarm before, when he organized many of those the Planeteers regularly fell foul of to disrupt the Earth Summit and defeat them. Zarm held a long-time grudge against Gaia, the mysterious 'spirit of the Earth' who had given the Planeteers their powers.
"I had," said Zarm. "but, having resumed wandering the galaxy, I was, shall we say, inspired."
"Well, anyway," said Blight, "MAL and I have the theory of the plan in place, but the Planeteers will land on us in no time. It hardly seems worth bothering when I could have a perfectly good smuggling ring going!"
"As if," smirked Zarm, "you could resist having a weapon of mass destruction."
Blight allowed herself a smile of her own, "True enough. When do we proceed?"
"Affairs are already in progress. I arrived on Earth two weeks ago."
"Two weeks!" Blight squawked, "What are you waiting for?"
"I have certain…perquisites. But these are already prepared. The power station will be going online in two days, and our victory with it!"
Sunup over the Indian Ocean. The sea was calm and the sun shone hot. And over it, the round, winged, yellow shape of the Geo-Cruiser raced over the blue; in the distance, volcanic cones rose into the sky.
The Planeteers were en route to the island of Reunion, where they had been invited by an old ally.
Kwame, Linka, Wheeler, Gi and Ma-Ti were accustomed by this time to being at the cutting edge of technology, since much of it was now made with the priority of safeguarding the natural world, which the Planeteers swore to protect. Equally, such technology was liable to be hijacked by those who detested an opposition to their own profits, or wanted to pervert the innovation.
Wheeler frowned at the densely printed pamphlet he was reading in consternation. "Okay, somebody's gotta break this down for me: what is 'microwave energy' and what does it do beside make my popcorn?"
"It is," Kwame said with patience only the Planeteers' de facto leader could display, "a form of clean energy, being attempted at Reunion for the first time."
"Swell," he said, "but what is it?"
Gi chimed in, "It's a way of harvesting the energy of the sun, but more intense than regular solar power, because the solar energy is collected by a network of satellites in orbit, and then it's turned into microwaves and beamed straight down to a ground station where it becomes electricity!"
"Da," said Linka, looking up from a physics book, "while sunlight that strikes the Earth's surface has been diffused and filtered, the satellites can take the energy straight from the Sun!"
Wheeler confessed himself impressed, but little Ma-Ti, ever wisely hesitant, remarked, "But, if this is the same type of energy as microwave ovens use, would it not be very dangerous?"
"Not at all," Linka replied, "the energy that strikes the ground is still quite faint, but once it is collected, the collection becomes very large very quickly."
Wheeler smiled absently, enjoying Linka's knowledgeable talking, or at least her richly accented voice. She noticed his distraction and muttered in Russian exasperation.
"`Reunion coming up now," Gi announced from the pilot's seat.
When Gaia had directed the Planeteers to the island near Mauritius, Linka had called it a 'land of tragedy.' The passionate admirer of birds had explained at length the process that brought about the extinction of the Mauritius' Dodos.
But Reunion was beautiful regardless. Verdant forests were punctuated by the natural sculpture of black volcanic craters.
The Geo-Cruiser began a gentle descent. Suddenly, however, the Geo-cruiser yawed in the slipstreams of two fighter jets that screamed out of nowhere past them, swooping down over Reunion.
"What they heck," Wheeler yelled in consternation, flailing his arms.
Linka was sharp, "What is the matter with those pilots?"
"What are fighter planes even doing here?" Ma-Ti yelped, cradling his badly frightened pet monkey, Suchi.
"Military coverage," said Gi evenly, "Remember the disappearances."
Indeed, Gaia had discussed with them the mysterious disappearances of half a dozen cargo planes and three supertankers carrying oil out of the Persian Gulf in the past two weeks.
"They're afraid of being attacked," Wheeler nodded, "that's smart. I can think of some Eco-villains who'd like to get hold of this power plant."
"And with good reason," Kwame pointed, his eyes wide, "Look!"
On a plateau below one of the volcanoes stood the station. It was a massive receiver dish, alongside a large concrete building which presumably held the monitoring equipment and power cells.
The landscape around the station was scorched, and a car seemed to be on fire. On the helipad behind the dish was a vividly pink airship.
"Doctor Blight," Gi spat. Her vain and ostentatious style was unmistakable.
"Gi," cried Kwame, "land on the terrace above the station, quickly."
"Watch out," Linka said, "there's a bird in the way."
It was true. A large, dark, winged shape was circling the power cell building. As they grew closer, it suddenly ceased its gliding circles and charged straight at them! It whooshed past the Geo-Cruiser, and the deck lurched violently a second time. A circuit box in the roof sparked and flashed, then smoldered.
Gi managed to land the Geo-Cruiser roughly, but without crashing it. They leaped out, ready for action. Linka was fretting as she moved to inspect the damage, fully expecting the hull to be smeared with blood and feathers.
But no, to their astonishment, they found the hull was scorched like the landscape below. The outer hull had been burned through, leaving twin long gashes like fiery claw marks.
Below them, the tarmac around the station was a melee. Soldiers and officials were scrambling, apparently firing on the bird-creature which was flying skyward again.
The Planeteers half-ran, half-slid down the slope and as they neared the crowds, Kwame cried, "Don't shoot! We're the Planeteers! We're here to help!"
"Planeteers! Thank heavens!" A deep, accented voice cried.
"Clash," Cried the Planeteers as one.
Commander Clash, a former New Zealand marine corps intelligence officer, now a UN Special Ops officer, approached them, his dress uniform dusty and his sidearm drawn.
"I was hoping I could invite you to be guests of honor at the opening," Clash gasped, his expression badly shaken, "but they attacked!"
"What the heck is that," cried Wheeler, "that robo-bird thing?"
"No idea. Oh! The backup's arriving…is that ALL?"
Behind them, coming up the winding road below them, was a large van, the kind that SWAT teams use for mobile command centres.
"Why do you need backup," Gi frowned, scanning the skies, "Why haven't the jets tried to shoot it down?"
"They're coming back," Kwame pointed to the sky above the valley, where the bird-thing was roaring downward, the silhouettes of the jets flanking it.
"Because," Clash gasped, waving to his men to take cover while shepherding the Planeteers with his other arm, "they're on the same side!"
Ahead of the jets and the bird, a salvo of lances of violet light and smoke-trailing rockets rained down on them. A machine-gun operator dove from the back of his jeep as the violet beams caused it to burst into flames, the gasoline, plastics and munitions igniting. One of the rockets destroyed an official car. When the three attackers screeched overhead, the air was full of oily smoke and the cries of wounded people.
Linka raised her ring hand. "We cannot defend ourselves if we cannot see. Wind!"
A sudden gust of air pinned the smoke down to the ground and drove it over the edge of the plateau.
"Fall back to the station!" Clash shouted.
As they crowds began heading toward the power station, the SWAT truck arrived. The Planeteers were at first inclined to relief, but they had to dash clear as the truck did not slow down. The sleek dark blue and silver truck, its roof arrayed in antennae and dishes roared across the tarmac, scattering fragments of wreckage and broken asphalt, dispersing the crowed yet again. It braked hard and spun around between the crowd and the entrance to the station.
The Planeteers stopped short, partly covered by the security booth at the parking lot entrance, the barricade of which the truck had just smashed through.
Linka regarded the SWAT van. She didn't know the hallmarks of the Reunion constabulary, but there was something definitely peculiar about this van. First of all, there only seemed to be one person, the driver, inside the cab, and he was staring impassively into the middle distance. Second, the logo on the radiator, where the manufacturer's mark usually goes on cars, was not one she recognized. It was a sort of abstract face that resembled a skull or perhaps a bird of prey – hard to tell.
"Wheeler," she said, sure that his American sensibilities would give him an eye for cars, "do you…"
Wheeler had been listening attentively to Linka, but then something happened that made his brain seize up.
It was not that something happened which stretched the limits of his credulity – his years as a planeteer had shown him some pretty out-there things. Rather, what happened seemed to him to violate the very tenets of spatial logic.
The SWAT Truck, so it seemed, collapsed. Not into component wheels and fenders and panels, but into blocky segments, like a dismembered Rubik's Cube. Its very hull seemed to separate along invisible seams.
Then, as the Planeteers watched in dumbstruck shock, the disorderly segments rearranged themselves, jointed into each other, piling up on each other, taking new shape. Clear shapes arose of a large, square leg, a broad chest, an armored arm.
"What the blazes," Clash breathed. What stood before them now was undoubtedly a robot. It stood about twenty-five feet tall. The radiator grille was now in its chest, proudly displaying its jagged emblem. Its head looked helmeted, with a prow-shaped mask where a mouth and nose ought to be, and a red visor replacing eyes.
"Jeepers," Wheeler yelled, "it's a robot!"
"You don't say, Yankee," Linka snapped.
Wheeler stepped forward and spoke loudly to the robot, which was standing impassively where it had…transformed.
"Hey! Robot! What's going on? Do you know why those planes are shooting at us?"
"You are a true diplomat Wheeler," Kwame remarked blandly.
But the robot replied, "Affirmative." It spoke in a modulated monotone.
"Incoming!" Clash cried. The jets and the bird were coming in over the receiver dish. The bird-thing passed over, but the jets suddenly went nose up and plummeted toward the ground.
The Planeteers recoiled, ready to run from the imminent explosion, but were not altogether surprised when the jets both suddenly folded in half, limbs separating off their superstructures.
The impassive first robot was now flanked by two more, slightly taller ones. Their chestplates were formed from the cockpits. The wings crossed behind their backs and they had what could only be weapons mounted on their squared forearms. Their faces were more human, eyes ruby-crystal red, and their expressions seemingly arrogant. One was colored in red and silver, the other in blue and black.
The red one spoke to the first robot, "There's no need to speak to the flesh-creatures, Soundwave," he spoke in a screeching voice like, well, like a jet engine. He looked skyward and shouted, "Lazerbeak, return to base!" He looked at the other two, "Thundercracker, open the power station. Soundwave! Prepare the energon cubes!"
The second jet robot, apparently named Thundercracker, moved toward the large building that housed the power cells. It had a fifty-foot-high loading door at one end, which Thundercracker casually ripped off like it was cardboard. The one called Soundwave spread its hands about ten feet apart in front of itself, and a semi-transparent, hollow cube materialized between them. It set it down, and then produced another, then another.
Gi charged forward, shouting, "What are you doing?" The other Planeteers and Clash followed.
The red jet robot stepped into their path, pointing its arm-mounted weapon at them. "Not so fast, flesh creature!"
Wheeler acted first, raising his ring and shouting "Fire!"
A hot ray shot from his ring and struck the robot's own weapon, setting it glowing yellow-hot.
The robot yelled in pain (funny thing for a robot to do, Wheeler thought) and stepped back a few paces. "Insolent organic," it howled, "you dare to attack Starscream? You will suffer for this!"
He stopped and took a swipe at them. They ran, with Clash yelling, "Quick, head into the power plant!"
Soundwave and Thundercracker had moved away from the entrance to the station's control centre under the dish. They heard Soundwave's voice say, "Ravage, eject. Operation: apprehend."
They ran down into the station's control centre, a room of a thousand switches and arcane data displays. One of the screens showed the sinister face of MAL, Blight's AI acolyte, accessing the station's computer through the cable to her ship.
She spun round from where she was working, gun in hand, "Too late, Planet-pests," she jeered. She looked haggard for all her arrogance. She'd even neglected to cover her scarred face.
"Blight," Clash snarled, "I see one corrupted AI servant isn't sufficient for your megalomania."
"I protest," crackled MAL, "I am the good Doctor's exclusive servant!"
"That jet-storm party upstairs and I have...a mutual protection pact, I suppose. Most of them can't get down here to operate the controls, so they got me. They get a fresh supply of those energon-cube things of theirs, and I get a weapon: those satellites. I crank their output into overdrive and reprogram their targeting scanners, and I can roast anyone who stands against me! Including Hope Island, of course!"
The Planeteers were horror-struck. Hope Island, Gaia's domain, their headquarters, their home!
Wheeler again took charge, "Not if I roast you first! F..."
Before he activated his ring, something crashed through the Planeteers and stood between them and Blight.
It was a massive mechanical black panther, pneumatic pistons in place of muscles, eyes blood red LEDs, the jagged emblem printed on its shoulders. It also had something unsettlingly like a rocket launcher mounted on one hip.
"Thank you, Ravage," Blight said shortly, and returned to work. She opened a communication channel, "Decepticons, you may begin filling the energon cubes."
Wheeler in particular had to stop himself springing forward to stop Blight, but at the first quiver of action, Ravage snarled and advanced menacingly. Ma-Ti stepped forward, looking even smaller than usual beside the living mechanism. "Heart." He activated his ring, trying to reach the creature's mind, perhaps to persuade it to change sides.
What Ma-Ti encountered was a consciousness (itself surprising since this was a machine) which, despite its animalistic appearance, was as wily and curious as a human, but also cruel and fanatically logical. There was no appealing to it.
However, it seemed to detect Ma-Ti's intrusion, and began snarling and clearly preparing to spring. Clash remarked, "Time for a tactical retreat!"
They rattled back up the metal stairs with Ravage at their heels.
"Get back to the Geo-Cruiser," Kwame shouted.
As they emerged back onto the tarmac, Linka spun and yelled, "Wind!"
A gust blew the doors shut behind them. The metal doors bowed out a second later and they heard a tinny howl of rage.
The Geo-Cruiser was still high on the slope. The three giant robots were doing something in the power station, and the cubes Soundwave had been producing were now being filled with a soft, shimmering luminescence.
"Stop them," yelled Starscream.
Soundwave turned. Clash and the Planeteers ducked and sprinted as the ground around them was peppered with incendiary ammunition that seared their hair and skin. They made it halfway up the volcanic hillside, their shoes sinking deep into the gritty black soil.
Soundwave's radiator/chest plate suddenly sprang open like an old tape deck. A shape not unlike a huge videocassette launched out, and immediately began changing. When it hit the ground, it was a blocky humanoid about eight feet tall, with massive pistons mounted on its forearms.
Soundwave intoned, "Rumble, activate pile drivers, operation: landslide."
The smaller robot, Rumble, began pounding its pistons on the ground. The force of the impact was like an earthquake. The Planeteers' arms windmilled and they scrambled desperately as the ground beneath them began to slide in sheets down the hill, where Ravage had now arrived, having smashed the plant doors open.
Some parts of the hill slid faster than others, and Gi and Clash, the right-most of the six, finally tumbled over backwards and rolled to the bottom of the hill.
"Gi!" Kwame cried.
"Commander," Ma-Ti wailed.
Gi scrambled halfway to her feet, then froze as Ravage growled at her. Rumble marched over and planted one of his pistons on Clash's chest, pinning him and making him gasp for breath.
"Gi!" Kwame yelled from the hillside, "Let our powers combine!"
Kwame pointed his ring above Gi and Ravage and commanded, "Earth!"
"Fire!" Wheeler matched his aim and followed.
"Wind," Linka added.
From below Gi sent her power skyward, "Water!"
"Heart," Ma-Ti ended the sequence.
The beams from their rings converged above where Rumble and Ravage had pinned Gi and Clash. There was a flash and a thunderclap, and then a voice reverberating around the valley: "By your powers combined, I am Captain Planet!"
The Captain, the sum of the Planeteer's powers, appeared, his skin crystalline blue, his red clothing and green hair making him a striking figure. He surveyed the scene with his usual calm humour. "Whoa!" Captain Planet remarked, "It's the War of the Robots here today!"
Ravage had been watching Planet, and if he'd had hackles, they would have been raised. He coiled and leaped up to where Captain Planet floated. The Captain caught his front claws, and swung the mecha-cat around, "Bad kitty," he quipped as Ravage tumbled down the road to the valley.
"What is it?" Rumble cried in a tinny, nasal voice.
"I don't know," Starscream said, approaching, "but I don't like it!" He swung his hand as if making an underarm throw and a rocket blasted out and struck Captain Planet. It threw him back quite a ways, but as always, he weathered it.
"Nice try, jet-breath," he taunted Starscream, and then flew like a missile himself right at the giant robot. He knocked Starscream right off his feet. "I don't know what your game is," the Captain said, pinning one of Starscream's arms, "but nobody hijacks clean energy projects on my planet, or shoots my Planeteers!"
Captain Planet took to the air again to dodge a swipe from Soundwave. Thundercracker was still filling energon cubes, although hurriedly.
Flying up to his level, Captain Planet upper-cut-punched Soundwave, knocking him off balance, then grabbing his arm and flipping him over with an almighty crash.
Starscream was on his feet again by now. The Kwame and Wheeler descended the slope to recover Clash and Gi. Captain Planet was stopped in his pummeling of Soundwave by a call from Ma-Ti, "Captain Planet, you must stop Doctor Blight!"
Captain Planet seized Soundwave by his massive ankles and tossed him over the fence along the Cliffside, then half-ran, half-flew down into the power plant.
"Rumble, Ravage, pursue!"
There was a dull crash from inside the power plant, and a moment later Dr. Blight's airship took off somewhat crazily, spewing exhaust in its wake.
Captain Planet however, had to come around rather than pursue. The Planeteers were still in the robots' line of fire.
"He's coming back," Thundercracker warned, emerging from the power cell housing with a stack of the scintillating cubes.
Rumble and Ravage staggered up from the control room. Apparently Captain Planet had given them their what-for.
"Never mind," Starscream barked, "We've filled the Energon Cubes!"
The Planeteers could hear sirens wailing below. Clearly the actual backup was on its way at last.
Captain Planet descended on the three robots, "I'll fill a recycling bin with the lot of you!"
Starscream looked skyward and saw Captain Planet descending upon them. He lazily turned to face the oncoming superhero/spiritual being.
"Are you indeed? You play well at tossing us about, but how do you weather my null-ray?"
Starscream pointed his arm (the opposite one that Wheeler had injured) and fired right at Captain Planet. The ray was like a kind of strobe laser. The Planeteers were shocked and horrified to see Planet recoil, moving spasmodically, and then drop. He bounced off the edge of the receiver dish and landed in a heap.
Captain Planet's weaknesses were well known to them, but this was unlike anything they'd every seen!
Rumble ran toward a dazed-looking Soundwave, and leaped back into his chest compartment, resuming the form of cassettes.
Ravage, however, leaped towards the Planeteers. With Captain Planet still manifest but disabled, their rings were non-functional and they were helpless.
Ravage roared and leaped towards the Planeteers.
"No!" Clash threw himself in the path. Ravage clamped his jaws on his jacket and hurled him over his shoulder. Soundwave had returned to his truck form, and Clash landed right in the rear cargo bay.
The Planeteers jumped and ran for the hillside again. But there was a shrill scream, and they saw Gi being dragged back in Ravage's jaws. Kwame jumped at Ravage with a yell of rage. Ravage gained enough speed and bounded into the truck, Gi dragging alongside him. The truck doors slammed shut.
"Gi!" the Planeteers cried out.
"Decepticons," Starscream commanded, "Withdraw!"
Thundercracker and Starscream did back flips into the air, stacks of cubes in their arms, which became engulfed in their structures as they transformed back into jets. Starscream took off at full throttle, while Thundercracker swooped down and clamped onto Soundwave, taking off over the valley.
"Planeteers," came Captain Planet's feeble voice in their minds, "I have no fear for Gi and Clash. You can save them, but I'm out of the game for now. The Power is Yours…"
There was a brief aura around his form, and he disappeared.